We all need some comfort right now. And what better comfort than talking about food? Michael and Pele tell their story of a multicultural dinner they hosted recently for friends and family that taught everyone in the room something they didn’t know. Then, they talk with James Beard Award-winning chef Edouardo Jordan about his roots in Southern cooking, the struggles of breaking through as a black man in the culinary world, and the ongoing debate of jerk chicken versus oxtails. Plus, Chef Jordan gives us all an exclusive Pro Tip you can use in your kitchen during social distancing.
[00:32] Michael Bennett: We’re talking about sharing cultures between friends and family who don’t get to see a certain culture, like in Hawaii, a lot of people don’t know about Black History Month. They don’t know the story behind Black History Month. How Black History Month was started. Don’t even know the contributions of African-Americans in America. So Pele and I came up with a good idea for our Sunday night dinner.
[00:54] Pele Bennett: But our girls are homeschool. So we decided to create a presentation where we had friends and family come over, we had a big dinner.
[01:04] Michael Bennett: But explain friends or family, because we didn’t have any black people at our house that day.
[01:11] Pele Bennett: We did. I really did.
[01:13] Michael Bennett: We had a couple. We had like our black friends, but also we invited other people from other cultures. Like, how many different —
[01:17] Pele Bennett: Yeah, so we invited friends and family and what that looks like — we have to literally go down the list. We had, you know, white people from all different places from around the world. We had Chinese, we had Japanese, Samoan. We had Canadian.
[01:38] Michael Bennett: It was a lot of different people.
[01:41] Pele Bennett: We might honestly be missing someone because we had almost about 30 people and that included women, children, families.
[01:48] Michael Bennett: I just want to give you all the context of what our party looked like. It looked like the Kardashian family. We just went out and just got different people. Looks like Pele’s family. I told her dad — I always tell him man, when you get those pictures, like nobody can ever say who your — nobody could say anything negative around you. Because literally, one of your grandchilden is Laos, another’s black, one’s Native American, Tonkan, Italian, Mexican. He has like the whole spectrum of human beings. But that was what’s cool about the dinner. We felt like that was important.
[02:33] Pele Bennett: So basically what the day also consisted of — so we had everyone come over. While everyone was, you know, mingling and getting to know each other, the girls started off and they took them through paintings that we had on our walls. And they each got to give a little bio, brief history on the person, what their contributions were to America. And they got to talk. So all three girls did two people each.
[02:59] Michael Bennett: The thing that impressed me, too, is our middle daughter, Blake, she’s usually really shy. But this day, she had some pride about herself. She was a really strong person that day. And she really presented to everybody. And she was talking about Nina Simone and Marcus Garvey and Thurgood Marshall. And a lot of the times where she was talking, I was proud of her. I was very proud of her because she was able to articulate her message.
[03:31] Pele Bennett: And when she stumbled, she kept going. And that’s what I felt like was really winning right there because of her confidence. She kept going. And it was interesting because we even had people like Jimi Hendrix and Bob Marley. And everyone knows Bob Marley. But one of my friends was sitting next to me and she was like, I didn’t know that. Oh, I didn’t know that. Oh, really? He did that. And she was like, I’m learning a lot. And like, even though we’re joking, we really were learning something. And that was just between one person. And so everyone in that space all said the same thing later, that they learned something they didn’t know that day. And I think that was the overall goal, you know, was to help not educate, but teach and share through storytelling and through actual facts.
[04:10] Michael Bennett: Yeah. And with those facts, I thought it was important that we share like some of the hardships and some of the tough history that African-Americans have been through, but also for us to show some of the things that we should be prideful about.
[04:21] Pele Bennett: So after they did their walk, then we also did food.
[04:27] Michael Bennett: And then me and Pele gave a history about the different types of food, the foods that were connected to our history as African-Americans. We talked about the story of, you know, sweet potatoes, collard greens, fried chicken. How did the seeds get here? We gave those stories to the people and they were so surprised because we were saying this was a part of our culture. This was a part of how we survived in America. This food right here is a history of our story,
[04:55] Pele Bennett: But also it takes it further than that because this has become a part of your culture. And when I say “your” I mean people in America. When you really go into the history of it, it’s African-American food, Southern food. But everybody eats that now. So that food has become American food also. But we know who and where it came from.
[05:13] Michael Bennett: Yeah. We kept those breadcrumbs to our past.
[05:17] Pele Bennett: Everyone brought food, which I thought was amazing. Everyone participated and helped out. And I think everybody was really open to learning and having conversations that day also.
[05:25] Michael Bennett: I thought the best part of the night is when we had this little bowl, and we had picked out some different things in history, and I had Peyton write them out and she put them in a bowl. There was about 20 of them. And we shook the bowl up and then we had each person pull out something from the bowl. And then they had to read it in front of everybody so taking everybody could understand what happened. And it was just kind of a time for them to also go into their own mind and deeper thoughts, because everybody took about five minutes to digest what they’re reading. And then they said it.
[05:55] Pele Bennett: I do wish that we had more time because by that time it was already getting late into the evening. I wish we had more time to piggy-back after they read their cards so that we could explain or talk about a little bit about it, you know, because it just went to the next card. I feel like because it was such a mixed group, and there are young people there also, that they might have left a little, you know, unsure, but maybe curious so they took it further. But it was so much information because we had so many people there.
[06:24] Michael Bennett: Yeah. And I think the cards were important because things like what is a freedom riot? What is a sit-in? Who’s Malcolm X? African-Americans in the military. The French and the Indian War. Like there’s so many things that we had in there.
[06:42] Pele Bennett: Our youngest, Ollie, did her presentation. She did a Ruby Nell Bridges.
[06:49] Michael Bennett: Do you think people know who that is? Ruby Nell Bridges. Go look that up right now. You done? Did you do it already? OK. They’re back.
[07:05] Pele Bennett: What was interesting is when Ollie used herself, for example, that, you know, when she said Ruby was her age at 6 years old. And you see this tiny little person, you know, that is barely reading what she had put together herself, about a story of Ruby. And I was just like I think everyone that was sitting there kind of looked up and was like, whoa, your age? Like as small as you, she made that big of an impact.
[07:32] Pele Bennett: And for Ollie, when she said she’s the same age as me, that kind of shook the room a little bit.
[07:42] Michael Bennett: When I tell you that Ollie is a funny little person, she is so intelligent and she says things that I’m like, “what?” And then I’m like, “oh wait, that makes sense.” I think that’s in kids in general. Sometimes we don’t listen to them, we just send them off, quiet them down and tell them to stop. But really, if you start having a conversation with a child, you’re like, wow, you know, a lot. And sometimes you learn from that.
[08:04] Michael Bennett: Like even when our friend, who’s a chef, his card that he picked was a chef. He was talking about how he needed to know that history. He didn’t know that. And like, he’s a Asian guy who’s a chef, but he’s just like, dang, like that kind of shook him a little bit.
[08:20] Pele Bennett: To teach them about culture through food, you know, was amazing because some people had not had some of those dishes. And Michael, let me tell you, y’all, Michael was supposed to fry some chicken. What happened to your fried chicken, Michael?
[08:39] Michael Bennett: What happened was Ruth wanted to fry the chicken. But I told her I was like, look, you don’t just fry 20 — because there’s like 30 people. She fired 30 pieces of chicken, which went in five seconds. But I didn’t get to do my chicken. But last night I did my chicken and my kids were super happy about that chicken. Ruth, your chicken — just because I know Ruth going to listen to the show. Ruth, your chicken was delicious. All right. So I don’t want you to listen to the show and be like, “Michael said my chicken — “ no, your chicken was good. But I didn’t get to make the chicken because they were doing everything. And I just was trying to get the house straightened up.
[09:11] Pele Bennett: I dunno, Ruth. I’m in the middle. I don’t eat chicken, so y’all can choose a side.
[09:16] Michael Bennett: I mean, I’ve just been cooking chicken my whole life. These black hands right here, I can dip my hand in the grease and take the chicken out without a fork or a tongs or anything like that. Just get the hand in the chicken. Take it out. Put it down. Make sure it’s cooked over. Look at these hands! It’s not from being on the field, it comes from frying chicken. If I grab somebody, they can’t let go is because I’ve held grease before. But it was interesting, though, because we had gluten-free chicken. I’ve never had gluten-free chicken. I don’t believe certain things should be changed, like bacon.
[09:38] Pele Bennett: How about my cornbread?
[09:39] Pele makes her a homemade cornbread.
[10:14] Pele Bennett: You know, like some people put sugar, some people don’t. I feel like that’s a big thing in the South. So the recipe that I originally had found had sugar, but I didn’t use sugar. I used monk fruit. And I always tell people after I make it, because there’s a little bit, like one quarter cup of honey, but nobody ever knows. And they’re like, oh, this is so sweet. And I’m like, yeah, but there’s no sugar in it. So I’m just throwing that out there because I’m like some things can be made without having to put that white, you know, addiction stuff in there. I’m talking about sugar.
[10:41] Michael Bennett: She’s not talking about cocaine. If you put cocaine in cornbread — I think the whole thing about this is that a lot of us are uncomfortable to have those conversations or introduce people to our culture. And I think that’s something that we have to do more of those dinners where we talk things out, those dinners where we explain our history, because like you said, I think a lot of people are left different.
[11:14] Michael Bennett: Today we have a special guest, somebody I known in Seattle. I got introduced to him to one of our friends, Ruth True. He’s a James Beard award-winning chef. I’ve been to all his restaurants. He’s done something to Southern food that I just feel like is so complex. I feel like Southern food has been overlooked because it’s so normal. Anybody can cook to chitlins and grits and oxtail. But to make it sophisticated, we have one of the top chefs in the world, chef Edouardo Jordan, not Michael Jordan. I mean, it’s kind of weird because you almost got like a Spanish name and then you say Jordan. Like what? I’m like, wait. Are you mixed?
[12:10] Edouardo Jordan: Yeah. “Is he Jamaican? Puerto Rican or something? Black folks can be anything.
[12:18] Michael Bennett: Especially in Florida, down in St. Pete and that area. You’re from that area. I played in Tampa Bay, so I know that St. Pete area very well. It’s a very diverse place. Did having so many Hispanic influences and the Southern influences, the Caribbean, help play a role in your success? In the style of the way you cook? It’s like you have taken those roots of slavery and made them into something positive.
[12:50] Edouardo Jordan: I do my best to do that. I mean, you know, I mean, coming from Florida, there’s so many influences, so many different people. To a certain degree, there’s pockets of everyone. I think we tended to just stay in the neighborhoods and groups that we are familiar with. And so you would see the Cubanos stay in their own little area, the Tampa area. And then you have, you know, a lot of African-Americans and in certain pockets of Tampa. And you’ve got St. Pete, the ‘hood, you know, certain spots that you’ll see your white folks with tons of money who came down from New York and hanging out on the beaches. And then you have your poor white folks and then you have, you know, the hood St. Pete. So we didn’t mix much, but it was a lot of culture there. And, you know, we tended to mix when there was festivals and things that people just came out and realized like, oh shoot, there is a lot of different people here in the city.
[13:45] Michael Bennett: Let’s make this clear, the St. Pete beaches are trash. Just so everybody know.
[13:55] Edouardo Jordan: Hey, don’t talk bad about my beaches.
[13:59] Michael Bennett: You gotta stand the ground. So what if you at the beach, and put your chairs there and you went back to get your things. And you come back and someone’s like, I’m taking the chair.
[14:13] Edouardo Jordan: I’m taking your chair. You want your cornbread in here? I’m taking your cornbread. Yes. St. Pete is interesting. It is. However, St. Pete beach was named one of the best beaches in the world at one point in time.
[14:28] Michael Bennett: It’s like they say Robert Pattinson is the most handsome man in the world. Who the fuck is making these lists?
[14:43] Pele Bennett: So what about this question? Ox tails or a jerk chicken? That has been a thing going right now?
[14:49] Edouardo Jordan: Well, I mean, they’re both two of my favorites. But I grew up more on oxtails than jerk chicken. So oxtails would definitely get the thumbs before jerk, but I love me some jerk. That’s a tough one.
[15:04] Michael Bennett: I tried some oxtails a couple weeks ago. I tried.
[15:09] Edouardo Jordan: Did you overcook it or undercook it?
[15:10] Pele Bennett: Can you do both at the same time? He pulled it off.
[15:16] Michael Bennett: It feel like I couldn’t get the flavor to stay. It was cooked good, but then it was like eating a raw piece of meat.
[15:23] Edouardo Jordan: What did you do? Tell me your techniques.
[15:25] Michael Bennett: I looked on Instagram. No, I went on food.com.
[15:31] Edouardo Jordan: First you should have called me.
[15:33] Michael Bennett: I know. But I know you’re busy. The crockpot cooked them good. But for some reason, I couldn’t get the seasoning to say.
[15:43] Edouardo Jordan: So that’s old school. My mom used to cook it in a crock pot. She would basically, you know, started at 11 a.m. We headed off to church. They simmerin’ along. By the time church is over four hours later — because, you know, church is long — those oxtail to be ready. But they were essentially like boiled meats. And, you know, you would throw in different things like potatoes and carrots and onions. But it is hard to season them that way. But if you want some professional ideas and techniques, you call me, OK?
[16:14] Pele Bennett: Right. Now we know. I’m gonna make sure he calls you. What about turkey tails?
[16:20] Edouardo Jordan: Ooh. What do you know about turkey tails?
[16:21] Pele Bennett: Polynesians love turkey tails!
[16:26] Edouardo Jordan: The fatty piece on the end? Oh, shit. That’s like one of those chefs kind of favorites. We’ll butcher chickens or turkeys and we’ll keep those little pieces for like our staff meal. Braise them off and then deep-fry them. The crispy ends and the cartilage inside. All of that fattiness.
[16:46] Pele Bennett: Heart attack.
[16:50] Edouardo Jordan: Five later, you’re breathing heavy.
[16:53] Michael Bennett: So as you embarked on your journey as a chef, what were the challenges that you faced? Because you were in some of the top restaurants around the United States, you spent time overseas, what did you encounter? Like not only is being a chef, but just being a black man inside this chef world.
[17:11] Edouardo Jordan: Glad you just stated that again, because I am a black man in a white man’s world in this industry. So, I mean, I faced a lot of things. Some things were not very apparent to me. Some things were kind of obvious to me in the sense that like a black kid growing up in this society, you see things that other people don’t see, or you notice things or you feel it. So I felt some of the same things in my industry, like, you know, was anyone actually paying attention to me? Was there anyone who really wanted to mentor me? How hard did I have to work? Did I have to work three times harder than the next person? If my skill sets are equal or better than the next person, was that opportunity not given to me because of my color? Like all of those things were all questions in my journey. Like you said, I worked in some of the best restaurants in this country. And so when you walk into those kitchens and it’s 20 people deep and you’re the only person of color, you know, it puts you in a very uncomfortable state.
[18:08] Edouardo Jordan: Besides like trying to accomplish your goals, your dreams, and actually, you know, finish off the task that is supposed to be done that day to be ready for service. You know, it’s just it could be double pressure on you. And I see this as a reason why there isn’t a lot of folks of color in some of the top restaurants because it gets heavy. At a certain point in time, you’re like, why am I doing this? What is the end goal? You know, I possibly don’t have enough money to open up a restaurant. Am I gonna get yelled by another white man in his kitchen? You know what opportunities are gonna be given to me. So all of that. All of those are things that I face and I’m glad that I held strong and I had thick skin and had determination and goals. But those are realities in this industry, especially if you’re working in the top restaurants.
[18:55] Pele Bennett: I want to circle back because I want to know, how did you start having a passion or, you know, that you were good at cooking? Where did that start? Was it through family? Because in my family meals, a lot of the males cook., but every day it’s a woman.
[19:10] Edouardo Jordan: The woman, yeah. I would say we share similarities where everyday, for the most part, my mom, my grandmother, some female was cooking in the kitchen to provide a meal, you know, six, seven days out of a week, for the most part. For the males, we did all the barbecuing. They did all the outside cooking and big butchering. And, you know, we were kind of ghetto, kind of country, too. So we did cool things like butcher soft-shell turtles and raccoons. Old school. So, you know, those are like exciting moments as a youth to see those and experience those moments with my elders, my uncles and my granddad and my dad. Outside, seeing a squirrel pinned up to a tree and you pulling the skin down. But I would say, like my passion for food and a desire to actually cook happened through my mom and my grandmother. It happened not because I wanted it to, but my mom kind of gave me an ultimatum, where it’s like if you want to go outside and play street football with your boys, you better either clean your room or help me in the kitchen before you go out. And so that became like the ongoing task. All right, I’ll chop the bell peppers or, you know, I’ll break all the eggs for the brownies or whatever, and then she’ll in let me go out to play ball for a little bit. That was the start of it, besides me starting to peek in the kitchen with my grandmother, asking her more questions.
[20:39] Edouardo Jordan: But the reality is, like, you know, being a black family, no one really knew of anyone that was an amazing black chef in general. So none of them actually pushed me to go to culinary school. They were like, you better become a doctor. You better become a lawyer or a sports agent or all of these things that I could do. And then I can fall back as — I’ll have some money now and I can open my own restaurant. I could do that. So I kind of followed that first step. I actually went to the University of Florida. I thought I was gonna be like a sports agent. I worked for the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for like six months. And I realized like that wasn’t my passion. And I was like, I gotta find something to do that I actually love. And I knew I had food in my heart. So that was kind of like the stepping stone to me deciding that I wanted to go to culinary school.
[23:56] Michael Bennett: So you got the two restaurants in Seattle.
[24:00] Edouardo Jordan: JuneBaby and Salare.
[24:03] Michael Bennett: Salare — do you feel like that was like the restaurant that put you on people knowing your style of cooking? What’s the difference between the two menus? Because I feel like JuneBaby’s so southern, but it’s sophisticated, but. Why did you go Salare first and JuneBaby second?
[24:30] Edouardo Jordan: Looking back, I wouldn’t have changed anything. And the reason I decided to go to the Salare route first was multiple reasons. One, that’s what I was trained in and I was a professional chef and I wanted to follow suit with some of the greatest chefs in the world. Because I actually, you know, when I left culinary school, I went to go work for some of the best chefs in the world, the best restaurant in the world. I trained to become a professional chef, fine-tuned in the world of French cuisine and Italian cuisine and learning to get my own spin on what my classic training was. And so Salare was kind of like the stepping stone for me to shine as a chef. And what I wanted to avoid with Salare or any restaurant that I opened was being pigeonholed to be, oh, that black chef. Or yeah, he was going to open up that black restaurant because that’s typical.
[25:24] Edouardo Jordan: And we kind of fall into that basket as chefs of color that we are only going to be cooking the food that we grew up on, or what we are familiar with, which is nothing wrong with that because that’s where a JuneBaby came about. But I wanted to kind of flex my muscles for the culinary world to show like, look, I can cook next to the best chefs in the world. I have one of the best restaurants in the city. I am a chef of color, but I am not actually only cooking food of color or from my ancestors. And I think it worked out.
[25:57] Michael Bennett: It worked out. JuneBaby to me is — I feel like food is crumbs to our past, the crumbs to our ancestors. Pele always talks about the souls of the pots and all these different things left over from my ancestors that we don’t know about, like the collard greens, the chicken, all these roots, these yams that our ancestors brought on those ships. And it’s a sense of who we are as a connection to our cultures, a connection to our identity. And for you to have a restaurant and being able to bring up the roots of slavery and the history of being oppressed through the food, but making it to something so sophisticated, I really think it’s just beautiful. And it’s art. What made you choose the way that you worded to me — because I’ve noticed in your restaurant, it’s a lot of white people that come to your restaurants —
[26:55] Edouardo Jordan: I would say 75 percent.
[26:58] Michael Bennett: I mean, they’re eating the chicken and with a fork. Put that goddamn fork down!
[27:09] Edouardo Jordan: Yeah, I mean, JuneBaby was an adventure. And I don’t know, like it came to me organically. I mean, it’s a long story in a sense, but I’ll try to summarize it. As I’m running Salare restaurant, receiving awards, being noticed for what I do and all the things that makes Salare great, I was realizing that there are so many new, cool Southern restaurants popping up around the country and they’re getting all these praises. Southern food is the new movement. It’s trendy, it’s so cool. And I was looking at the landscape and all the people that were running these restaurants, these cool new trendy Southern restaurants, and all of them were white male chefs. It honestly, like, touched my heart and my soul. I’m like, this is sad because no one is able and no one has been able to truly tell our story, my story, the story that I grew up with, the story that I kind of walked away from when I opened up Salare. It touched me in the sense that I knew that I had a platform with Salare to now speak my mind and speak my soul and be able to put all of that on paper in the form of a menu that actually represents me and my ancestors. And that was kind of like the birth of JuneBaby. I wanted to cook the foods and share the foods of my mom, my grandmother, my ancestors, those collard greens, those yams, those oxtails and those offcuts, all those offals, and the pig ears and things of that nature with no shame. I tell people all the time, I put on a horse blinders and I said, I’m going to cook my food. I put chitlins on the menu.
[28:52] Pele Bennett: Chitterlings?
[28:50] Edouardo Jordan: Chitterlings. That’s how the white folks say it. So I put chitterlings I actually had to explain it to a lot of people what it was and what it is. And, you know, those who know chitlins, they were like, are you serious? You put chitlins on the menu? And I’m like, yeah. Because this is the food that I grew up on. This is what JuneBaby is. This is who JuneBaby is. JuneBaby’s named after my dad and my dad loved chitlins. He loved oxtails. You know, it’s the foods that my grandmother cooked. The livers and onions, the fried chicken. I can’t cook the fried chicken the way my grandmother cooked it, but I’m doing my best to represent who she is through my food. And I just kind of I just knew it was my mission and my purpose to actually represent them, and it felt good.
[29:41] Pele Bennett: With food, you think about your ancestry, and you go through that genealogy and you literally are coming through food, though. So like we’re talking about really like pots having souls. But recipes, they have the story. It’s something that comes through with food that are passed on through generations that have these stories. I think we went to JuneBaby with Michael’s parents for the first time. It’s a Southern food, what are they going to say? Because Michael’s family is from the South. But it was beautiful because it was familiar, but you put your spin on it. And it’s highlighting those foods that, you know, people know of but haven’t had. And I think you are bringing different people, white people, different people that haven’t had soul food, haven’t had Southern food, haven’t had food in a certain type of way. You know, that to really highlight and I love what you did in the restaurant.
[30:35] Michael Bennett: When you think about slavery, there’s not a lot of things to be proud of or a lot of things that can carry over from them. The trauma has been carried over. But food is something that was our history. We were the cooks in the kitchen. We were the ones preparing the food. And so to be able to take that and make that into something sophisticated, I think that’s really important because I feel like food is something that we have lost. Like you said, now the chefs are predominately white males. But it’s like we’ve spent hundreds of years being the chefs for America and the presidents, actually. So why now are chefs not being accepted inside that role? Even JuneBaby — because like in the South — people don’t understand nicknames. People get the most craziest nicknames. I got a cousin named Cathead. Baybay. Kneecap. Like, why are you called Kneecap, man?
[31:53] Edouardo Jordan: You earned those names. I’m glad you guys touched that because like, you know, people often forget or may have not even known that African-Americans and Africans were the foundation of American cuisine. We were cooking in the big house and we was also cooking for our own families in the slave quarters. And you’re talking about cooking for some of the most esteemed dignitaries in the world coming over to shake hands and make money off the backs of these slaves in these big houses with these elaborate dinners. And guess who was cooking those dinners? You know, guess who was training these white slave owners how to cook apple pie or sweet potato pie, which they then turned into pumpkin pie, you know? We often forget that and it is our job now to teach that history lesson and appreciate the good and the bad of, you know, slavery and the slave foods and survival foods and the Southern food. Like for me, that is the foundation of American cuisine. And we need to honor that and respect that and appreciate it and know about it. So thank you guys for recognizing that, too.
[33:03] Michael Bennett: Were you fearful that the cuisine that you were about to do with JuneBaby or Salare, were you ever afraid that you would be accepted in Seattle? I feel like as a chef, you wanted to break the barrier, not to be just a black chef, but to be a chef that can do this. Did you feel that the boldness in how you’re attacking this, did you think it would be accepted the way that it has been?
[33:34] Edouardo Jordan: I’ve had minor worries. But then I put on my headphones and put on that Bone Crusher song. “I ain’t never scared. I ain’t never scared.” And that was kind of like the horse blinders. Like I actually didn’t give a damn what anyone thought. We actually had people walk into the restaurant when we first opened and I thought I was gonna be meat plus three kind of Southern restaurants. For $13.99, you’re gonna get your spoonful of, you know, lima beans and here’s your macaroni and cheese and your deep-fried, overcooked pork chop that has some gravy on top. And it wasn’t gonna be that. I am a professionally trained chef from the South and I wanted to put my touch on Southern food and show that I can cook chitlins, and I also can give you the best mother-fried pork chop you can ever have. And also teach you how to cook some oxtails.
[34:22] Michael Bennett: I have to master this oxtail thing because I love oxtail.
[34:30] Pele Bennett: He likes Jamaican oxtails.
[34:33] Michael Bennett: As you grow as a chef or you’ve grown as a father, how does your son, I know he’s five. Do you feel like you could help your son do anything at this point? Because I feel like sometimes they just want you to play sports. My dad’s a chef, so I feel like his eyes are open to so much. How do you deal with his identity? And like, what are the things that you do to help your son at such an early age?
[35:03] Edouardo Jordan: Well, I mean, the biggest thing for me is exposure. I’m trying to give my son opportunities that I’d never seen when I was a kid. Growing up in St. Pete, the opportunities that little black boys of color knew was you better be playing baseball or football because that was your key out of St. Pete. It wasn’t technically education and it wasn’t like theater. It wasn’t you can become an amazing surgeon or, you know, travel the world, etc.. I’m trying to expose my son to know that there’s so much out here. And I’m going to do my best to expose you, to give you experience. Funny thing that I tell people before opened up JuneBaby, my son was like a year old. He was there for the signing of my business loans. He was there for the signing of my lease. He was there for, you know, almost every major meeting that I had. It wasn’t because I wanted him there, because I’m being a father and trying to be a business man, too. But those are things that we, as father and son, are gonna be able to cherish one day and talk about. I travel with my son to the best that I can when I can so that he can experience New York. I didn’t go to New York until I was probably 27 years old or something. And that’s crazy. You know, my son is gonna see so much more by the time he’s six years old than what I saw before I was 20. And that’s what it’s about, because other cultures are allowing their families to experience so much more than what we do. And we have to figure out how to get our kids out there and expose them, give them experiences so that we can have a competitive edge moving forward. And that’s my mission. Like I want to teach him all about food. I want him to, you know, know how to be a public speaker. I want him to be able to write a speech. You know, I want him to be able to stand up in a theater and be a thespian if he wants to, but also be at a catch of football and run past everyone.
[40:01] Pele Bennett: So Edouardo, in your JuneBaby menu, can you please explain to us what the words, the dishes. The roots of slavery. Just give us your thoughts and how you created that.
[40:13] Edouardo Jordan: Yeah. So when I was in the process of opening JuneBaby, I went on a two-week visit of the South to kind of reacquaint myself and get reunited. And as I was traveling from Memphis to South Carolina to North Carolina and to Birmingham, Alabama. We ate it like over 22 restaurants. We visited three plantations. We went to like three farms.
[40:45] Michael Bennett: They try to keep you on a plantation?
[40:49] Edouardo Jordan: I know the way out here. So when I was going through that entire experience, I was like, I’m going to blog this. I’m gonna write all my journey down. And so there’s just like keywords that just kind of kept coming up as I was writing my experience there. And that was kind of like the birth of the encyclopedia. I’m like, I’m gonna write all of this stuff and people aren’t gonna know what the hell I’m talking about, especially people in Seattle who may not have grown up in the South. Not experienced some of the same foods and experiences that I experienced. And so I figure if I’m able to document this down before they actually come into my restaurant to experience it by going to my website and hitting the encyclopedia, they actually have a heads-up of what they’re about to experience. They have an understanding. I don’t want to hit people in a restaurant with so much history and knowledge that, like, someone’s crying at the table or feel, you know, oppressed or whatever the case is. But I want people to know what they’re getting themselves into when they come to my caliber of Southern restaurant. It is an experience, but I want you to have a good time. I want you to have appreciation. I want you to appreciate the photos on the wall, some of the artwork that we have in the hallway. I got some deep artwork in the hallway. You know, it’s slaves with markings on their back. And, you know, they’re looking you. Their eyes are staring at you.
[42:14] Michael Bennett: I think when people from Seattle walk into your restaurant — Seattle feels like they’re super liberal and that nothing like that happened where they were. That didn’t happen here. But I think when they come in, they see the reflection of themselves. Or they see the reflections of America’s history.
[42:32] Edouardo Jordan: It’s an educational piece. I think you’re learning about it because when you do think of the South, and you think of all so many cooks and dishes that come from there. But I love that you said you went to the farms, because that’s where it all started. Where’s the food coming from? How is it grown? How are the people, you know, that were on the farms? How did they grow these items? And then also you have like the botany side, but also the anatomy of a plant, you know?
[42:58] Edouardo Jordan: Yeah. We had a lot of African scientists.
[43:01] Pele Bennett: So resourceful in how you can use this plant in so many different ways. And I think that’s like education. These people are going there and learning a lot.
[43:08] Michael Bennett: They’re learning a lot, but also they reflect on the history of what America has done and how far these people have come. For a man to go through history of this, to have this restaurant and to be able to have his ancestors look at him in his kitchen. Now, this food is something that people, you know, they want to stand in line for.
[43:30] Edouardo Jordan: In the rain.
[43:35] Michael Bennett: I feel like cooking is kind of like not like a thing that people are doing anymore.
[43:48] Edouardo Jordan: It is a talent that we need to teach our kids. And we should not forget that. I kind of go back to like my history. I was lucky enough because I had an interest in the foods that my mom and my grandmother cooked. My sister did not have any interest. She don’t know the history of foods. You don’t know how to cook most of our food besides going to YouTube, Instagram. But she has a ton of questions. And we are now missing an opportunity to spend a little bit of time with our elders, our grandparents, whomever that were those cooks, were those like holders of the stories. My mom and my grandmother, they never talked about the food, but we learned the history through what we ate. And I want to be able to pass that to my son. My son is going to know how to cook better than probably me at a certain point in time in his life, because, like, I’m going to force him into the kitchen. So like, I think cooking is one of those talents, or one of those acts that we have to treat just like any sports or playing an instrument, whatever the case is, invest into the food. Because food is something that we have to have every day to survive. We can’t play an instrument every day.
[44:56] Pele Bennett: You’re not going to win every time. Sometimes I mess it up. It is what it is. And our girls like to cook also. I love that you are a African-American male that cooks, you know, and I think you’re representing for the men. But also, how does that relate professionally? Because I love cooking and I do love to buy cookbooks. I love to watch the Food Network shows and all these different episodes that are coming out now, the cooking competitions. And so a lot of the positions that are very high-ranked, I always see men. But if I think about, you know, everyday cooking, I do think of the woman. As you were, you know, climbing your ladder and going through your journey, how did women play a part?
[45:44] Edouardo Jordan: In the professional kitchen? There was not a lot of women in the professional kitchen. You know, and that that’s, you know, part of the issues that we’re facing in this industry. There’s a lot of people that have barriers. And as women, men of color, women of color, we face these barriers. And, you know, we were the backbones of food in America. And we’re the ones that are oppressed the most these days. So there wasn’t a lot. And now we are seeing a movement, there are women chefs in this country now winning three-star Michelin awards, being recognized and some of the same publications that some of these godly men chefs that have been around for a long time. So the media are taking notice. We are, as a society, being more supportive. I think media is the key, because without the media coming to your restaurant, supporting your restaurant, writing about you, no one knows you outside of your restaurant. I want them to appreciate me for who I am and not give me a thumbs up because like, oh, that meal was taken care of. And so I can’t name one media source that has ever received a free meal from us. It is a goddamned business. Especially in Seattle.
[47:07] Michael Bennett: When I was in Spain, the Michelin star, they just had those things everywhere in Spain. I couldn’t say that every time I see a Michelin star restaurant, they’ve been pretty good.
[47:21] Edouardo Jordan: They’re not worth it. I will avoid a three-star Michelin restaurant. I’m sorry, guys out there. But when I travel to to Europe and things of that nature, I’d rather go to the two-star or one-star, because those are the people that still are creating the hearty, wholesome, maybe more historical meal that is sizable.
[47:40] Pele Bennett: Yes. Sizable. Feed me!
[47:44] Edouardo Jordan: You’re dropping $700.
[47:45] Pele Bennett: I can’t lie, I do like the science part of food.
[48:04] Michael Bennett: Not when it’s those small things. You got a top on it when it comes out.
[48:13] Edouardo Jordan: I want to be full when I leave, I’ll tell you that. And satisfied.
[48:17] I wonder, someone who is as busy as you, do you find yourself having a hard time finding love? Because I feel like a lot of people are chasing success. People who will listen to our podcast, they might be super business. Can they still have love while having a business?
[48:32] Edouardo Jordan: Yeah. There’s times that I question love, because like, you know, once you become successful, why do you want to know me? Who are you? Do you want to know me for who I am? Like, would you know me if I’m broke kind of thing? I was married before. And it was a long-term relationship that I actually questioned, too. So is it hard? Yeah, it’s hard. You know, I’m I’m totally happy with the young lady that I’m with right now. And and I’m like, ready to grow and be that Crock-Pot and figure all this out. But that takes time. You know, you have to get beat up a little bit. You have to make mistakes. You have to turn the heat up. And you also got to turn it down. You’ve got to figure out, you know, where the button actually needs to be, that dial, to make it right for everyone. They got that Instant Pot now.
[49:26] Pele Bennett: We don’t want Insta-love.
[49:31] Get you one of those Kardashians, that’s Instant love and now you’re left with Instant crabs. You don’t want the Instant clap.
[49:59] Edouardo Jordan: But if you think about love now, like it is fashionable, it is temporary, because like, that’s what we see in media now. Everything on Instagram. As a young society, like they think that that’s OK now. You know, I think about my mom and dad, like they went through every God damn thing you can think of. Should have been divorced and probably should have ran away. But they were still together. And you don’t see that anymore because like we don’t fight for our relationships. We are now accustomed to just like. “All right. Guess I’m done. I’m gone.” And I experienced that, too. But at the same time, like, you got to find your happiness. You’ve got to find your joy. But like this instant stuff has to go away because. We can’t filter through stuff anymore because we see instant.
[50:47] Pele Bennett: I think its relationship with food, relationship with your children, that all comes into play. We’re big advocates for food and local, healthy food. Where is it being sourced? It’s really important to me that I teach my daughters where food is coming from. Who is growing this food? But also the relationship that I have with food and my children. What is your relationship that you have with food in general?
[51:13] And food within your neighborhood, because I know you do a lot of stuff with helping people learn food. What’s the passion behind that?
[51:21] Edouardo Jordan: I’m a big advocate for food literacy, especially for youth. Start with my son and then I pass a message along to my guests that come into my restaurant, into the youth that I work with all the time with various organizations. Because I think the most important thing is, is educating our minds so that we can actually have a palate, that we can actually get the nutrients that we actually need. And hamburgers and French fries and pizzas aren’t the only foods that we need to give our kids that make them smile. My son loves broccoli. He loves carrots. He loves fennel. He goes to the garden that we have in front of Salare, and he starts teaching guests when they come in that this is fennel fronds. This is nasturtiums. This is calendula. This is Swiss chard.
[52:08] Pele Bennett: That’s a dream com true!
[52:12] Edouardo Jordan: It amazes people because like a lot of adults don’t know. And if we don’t know that as adults, how do we expect our kids to eat correctly? How do we expect our kids to try something more than once? Just because Brussels sprouts are weird right now, just try it again, because it’s gonna be a little bit different. And my relationship with food is it starts with youth. It starts with education. It also starts with supporting the farmers and locale. My restaurants, we support — I would say 70 percent of our produce comes from within 100-mile radius at Salare. Probably 60 percent JuneBaby, but JuneBaby is a Southern restaurant, so there are ingredients that we have to actually like get driven in here. And then Lucinda is probably 80 percent, my newest grain bar.
[53:01] Michael Bennett: Lucinda. You didn’t tell me about Lucinda.
[53:06] Edouardo Jordan: You ended up getting on a plane and went to New England and then went to Dallas.
[53:12] Michael Bennett: What is Lucinda?
[53:18] Edouardo Jordan: Lucinda is my little grain bar. And so we focus on ancient grains. the Pacific Northwest, you know, some of the most diverse and unique grains growing here in the country. And a lot of these grains get pushed off to Iowa and everywhere else, China, etc. But we are the grain belt. We have all these ancient grains from iron corn to spelt barley. We got lentils. We got non-gluten items.
[53:42] Michael Bennett: So this is like a Native American —
[53:46] Edouardo Jordan: The Native Americans are a huge piece of the northwest landscape from my cuisine standpoint. From land, agriculture, et cetera. So yes and no, we are definitely influenced by some of the things that Natives grew here. And it is a part of the restaurant, but it isn’t a Native restaurant. It is a bar. It is a full-service restaurant. And our focus is grains. And my pastry team works out of there. So, you know, they’re grinding their own flours. And we make all the cornbread that comes out of JuneBaby, we grind all the corn at Lucinda and make the cornbread batter to go to JuneBaby. So it’s like it’s a full circle. It brings all my restaurants together to make them more sustainable, more unique and more appreciative of the grains. And so like, yeah, I’m definitely working hard to make sure that I’m touching local ingredients, supporting local farmers, educating youth. I try hard.
[54:52] Michael Bennett: What does Black History Month mean to you? Because we’re extending our Black History Month into March
[55:14] Edouardo Jordan: Black History Month means so many things to me. I have been extremely active in black history for, you know, since I was a youth. From like, you know, various organizations I’ve been in from the Urban League to the black culture society in my school to BSU being vice president of BSU in college. Being a part of a black fraternity and becoming the president of my black fraternity. So to be able to appreciate and share the story of black history is very important for me. It’s sad that we got the shortest month, I know we always say that, but we are extending it. I’m doing my part now as a chef of color. And I have a megaphone and a microphone to actually share that story, where I have platforms on my social media that I’m talking about weekly, you know, amazing things in black history. We just finished our Soul of Seattle event. You missed it, guys. You missed it. On February 7th, we had a big celebration of all the chefs of color in Seattle. I brought in 10 chefs that are actually here in Seattle that you may know, may not know. And we had a big old celebration. We partied, we danced, we ate, we celebrated. We raise money for the Urban League and Rainier scholars. So black history is very important in the sense that if I and other people like me aren’t telling this story, then we’re going to allow someone else to tell our story that may not be true anymore. And so it’s very important for me to be here to tell my story, to look deep in my own history and find out the truth, too, because the history books that we read in elementary school and middle school may not necessarily be true. Only way we’re gonna know that is if we do our history and we celebrate it and share it.
[56:56] Pele Bennett: Yes, I love that.
[57:03] Michael Bennett: You got to give our listeners a tip or something they can cook real easy, that takes about 10 to 15 minutes. I want to make Pele a Valentine’s dish. Even though the show is coming out after Valentine’s. Or if someone has a birthday, what’s a good little thing that I could cook for her that makes her think I’m a chef?
[57:30] Edouardo Jordan: Give me an ingredient or something.
[57:32] Michael Bennett: I would like to do a fish. Sea bass.
[57:45] Edouardo Jordan: You go big. For me, the special part about any type of fish is actually a crispy skin. So a lot of times you’re gonna get a fish, and hopefully it’s fresh, not frozen. There’s a certain amount of mucus that’s on that skin.
[58:07] Michael Bennett: Ok, ok. You’re fucking me up right now. I did not know this.
[58:05] Edouardo Jordan: It’s a natural defense to keep bacteria from entering those scales. So you scale that fish and it’s kind of slimy. So it’s like you want to remove that slime if you’re going to actually sear that fish to get a good, good sear. So scale that fish, clean it up, filet it and then put it on a nice hearty napkin, or even a towel that’s very clean, and let it sit in the fridge for like an hour or so. Once you’re ready to cook that fish, you’re going to use a knife and kind of scrape that skin to remove off any excess film or water so that you got like basically a bone-dry skin of fish. And when you’re going to season it, season it right before you sear it. You don’t want to season it in and walk away and watch some TV.
[58:58] Michael Bennett: That’s where I fuck up. I fuck up on the seasoning.
[59:04] Pele Bennett: He’ll leave a pot of water boiling on the stove.
[59:12] I think seasoning is a hard thing because I can like a fish, like a sea bass, I don’t know, throw some salt and pepper. But then it didn’t go into the food.
[59:29] Edouardo Jordan: Marinating is an excellent way to do it. It’s hard to marinate a fish and then actually try to sear it. But when you’re going to actually season a steak or a nice hearty piece of fish, you’re going to actually season it a little bit more than what you actually think. One, because if you’re searing it in the pan, some of that season is going to fall into the pan. If you’re basting it or if you put any kind of liquid in there, the liquid is going to actually like, you know, absorb some of that seasoning. And so you’re going to lose what’s actually going inside of that fish or meat. If it’s a hearty, like roast or something — like a leg of lamb or big old beef chuck — you can actually season it early, kind of marinate it, or just salt curing it in the sense, you know, up to like four to six hours in advance, or even overnight. And marinate in red wine and aromatics. And broil it and then roast it off. So something like your oxtails, I will season my oxtails in advance and let them sit and kind of marinate. You can marinate them in an a full water bath kind of medium or oil and herbs and things of that nature. Or you can season them with salt and pepper and let it sit for a few hours so that that salt kind of penetrates the internal portions of that meat rather than just the external. Because if it’s external and then you add it into a crock pot, you pouring water over it or stock over it, and all your seasoning is back in that water.
[01:01:00] Pele Bennett: This is very valuable information, people.
[01:01:56] Michael Bennett: Everybody, this week, when you listen to the show, hit us back. Make that sea bass. Give a shout-out to me. Look at that crispy skin.
[01:01:25] Pele Bennett: We just want to say thank you so much for blessing us with your time, your presence.
[01:01:33] Edouardo Jordan: Anytime. Come back and see me!
[01:01:35] We definitely need to get to Seattle. And maybe you know what? We’ll come back and Michael will cook for me and you.
[01:01:40] Michael Bennett: We’ll do a live show in the restaurant. I’m gonna cook oxtails with chef Ed back there. It’s a blessing to be able to have you on and call you a friend. It’s great to hear about the passion that you have behind food and the way that you father your son. I think it’s just a complete circle to see not you just as a chef, but as a man, as a humanitarian and just things that you’re doing. So I just want to say thank you. And I can’t wait to go to Lucinda.
[01:02:38] Can you just share one last time before we let you go, all the restaurants in order?
[01:02:43] Edouardo Jordan: Yeah. So Salare restaurant, my first restaurant. JuneBaby restaurant, Southern restaurant. The history, the dialect, the story. And Lucinda, my latest venture, a little grain bar, serving some of the most unique and best cocktails in the city, but also ancient grains.
[01:02:59] Pele Bennett: If you’re in Seattle, go check it out.
[01:03:01] Edouardo Jordan: Come see us, please.
[01:03:05] Pele Bennett: That’s it. That’s it. That’s the end. You don’t have to listen to Michael anymore, but come back next week for me on another episode of Mouthpiece with Michael and me.
[01:03:14] Michael Bennett: Please subscribe to us or like us on anything that you’re listening to. Apple, Stitcher, Spotify, whatever you’re listening to get away from your family, whoever you don’t want to be around. And make sure you rate us or give us a comment. Even though we don’t give a fuck about your comments, give us a comment. Mouthpeace is a production of Lemonada Media, which you can find online on all social platforms @LemonadaMedia. You can follow me on social media, @MosesBread72. I love bread, and biblically, I always thought I was Moses.
[01:03:44] Pele Bennett: And you can follow me on Instagram at @pelepels. Mouthpeace with Michael and Pele Bennett is executive produced by us, the Bennetts. Our Lemonada Media executive producer is Eli Kramer, and our producer is Genevieve Garrity. Our assistant producer is Claire Jones and our audio is edited by Brian Castillo. Thank you to our ad sales and distribution partners at Westwood One, and to all of our sponsors for making this show possible.